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Friday
Apr082011

dreaming the visual record

Tangible Dreams for a Dying Explorer

In 1897, on a barren Arctic island, photographer Nils Strindberg finally escapes the brutal cold when he slips into hypothermia.  Shortly thereafter, he becomes the first member of S.A. Andree's Polar Expedition to perish.  As Strindberg loses consciousness, he cannot know if his human remains or exposed film will ever be returned to civilization.  His compatriots bury him in a rocky grave, and their demise soon follows his.

Months earlier, in a daring attempt to explore the North Pole, Strindberg, Knut Fraenkel and Andree pilot a hydrogen balloon into the polar region under the flag of Sweden.  Strindberg conscientiously documents key moments even when they crash far short of the pole and are forced to trek for months across the pack ice in an attempt to return home.

The remnants of their final camp are discovered over 30 years after their deaths.  Among the detritus returned to civilization are detailed diaries and 5 rolls of Strindberg's exposed film.  93 viable negatives are miraculously salvaged.

In 2007, inspired by the narrative and Strindberg's photographs, artist Bradford Johnson initiates work on a series of paintings.  As his vision of the Andree Expedition begins to emerge, photographer C. E. Courtney becomes captivated by Johnson's work and begins photographing Johnson at work in the studio.  Courtney's work soon joins Johnson's as an exploration of Strindberg's final hypothermic dream.  From photography to painting and back again, Courtney and Johnson pay tribute to Strindberg's efforts and sacrifices as a scientist, an explorer, a documentarian, and an artist.  

 

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